President Guillermo Lasso has placed Azuay and three other provinces under a 30-day state of emergency as a result of indigenous strike disruptions and violence. The emergency rules, issued late Wednesday for Azuay, Imbabura, Sucumbíos and Orellana Provinces, include nightly curfews and the authorization of “progressive force” against violent protesters.
Azuay Province Governor Matías Abad appealed to Lasso Wednesday morning to issue the emergency declaration due to road blocks that have prevented medical supplies, gas and food from reaching the city. “Athough Cuenca and Azuay Province have not witnessed the violence of other areas, we have endured unacceptable supply problems because roadblocks maintained by the strikers,” he said. “We the need the declaration to allow police and military personnel to clear the roads as well as to maintain order in the communities.”
He added: “We have seen acts of violence on the highways leading to Cuenca, especially in Molleturo and Naranjal, which threaten the well-being and safety of our citizens. There have also been some cases of vandalism and looting of businesses in Cuenca. A state of emergency will allow increased police protection against this type of activity.”
In Cuenca, the daily curfew will begin at 9 p.m. and end at 5 a.m.
In addition, the state of emergency allows the government to restrict public gatherings and protests it believes could turn violent; authorizes the use of progressive force to neutralize violent and unlawful actions and aggression; allows police and the army to clear highway blockages and permits the use of government-owned heavy equipment to clear roads; and provides additional funding, as necessary, for law enforcement activities.
According to Abad, peaceful protests will be permitted during non-curfew hours.
A quiet day in Cuenca
Following Tuesday’s protest by taxi, bus and truck drivers, life returned to normal Wednesday, with most business reopening and employees returning to work. “We are thankful that Wednesday was the calmest day since the strike began three weeks ago and it was wonderful to see the city return to normal activities,” Mayor Pedro Palacios said on his Twitter account. “We still have some challenges to overcome but we believe the worst is over.”
According to police, there were few blockages of city streets Wednesday although protesters temporarily blocked Av. 12 de Abril late in the afternoon.
There were several small protest marches, all of them peaceful. University of Cuenca women held a protest in Parque Calderon Wednesday night in which they expressed support for the indigenous strike but attacked those using violence. “We reject all forms of macho violence, both in this resistance and against women,” one speaker told the crowd.
Municipal buses and the tram returned to normal schedules on Wednesday.
Schools are back in session
Public and private schools will reopen today in Cuenca. In a statement issued Wednesday, the Ministry of Education said it believed it was safe for students to resume face-to-face classes.
Transport trucks arrive but some produce is rotten
Although dozens of trucks arrived at city mercados Wednesday, vendors report that some of the fruits and vegetables were rotten as a result of roadblocks that delayed delivery. Market managers say food stocks are being replenished.